Manmaru-ya: A Charming Eatery on Joge’s Doorstep

Greetings everyone! Mary here, with the second entry in my JOGE blog series. Joge is a small town in northern Hiroshima where the charm of traditional Japanese lifestyle, architecture, and hospitality abounds. It is my hope that by writing English content about Joge, many people will come to know and love this town like I do.

A few weeks ago, I decided to pay a visit to Joge Station where some friends of mine have opened a new eatery. Manmaru-ya, as it is called, is run by barista Yoshimoto-san, yakitori master Taka-chan, purveyor of okonomiyaki and yakisoba Kawakami-san, and wild mountain plant expert Mizukami-san.

Over my 3 years living in Joge, I had the pleasure of getting to know some of these gentleman. Taka-chan formerly owned a long-standing yakitori stall on Joge’s main street. He loves to study English and chat with guests who visit from overseas. Mizukami-san holds annual barbecues featuring ingredients he finds growing wild in the mountains. I’ve attended several, and especially enjoyed the tempura cosmos flowers.

This team of Joge culinary staples moved their operations inside Joge Station with a special purpose in mind. They want to illustrate Joge’s warmth and hospitality to visitors right as they get off the train!

Here is their weekly schedule:

Monday-Tuesday: In-house roasted coffee
Wednesday-Friday: Okonomiyaki, yakisoba, yakitori, beer
Saturday-Sunday: Wild mountain herb lunch box

About Joge Station

Now to talk a bit about Joge Station itself. It was built in 1938 to connect Fukuyama and Miyoshi cities. It is a small, rural station split into an indoor area with a giftshop and Manmaru-ya, and a roofed outdoor rest area. The station is bright and comfortable thanks to recent renovations made possible by funding from the Fuchu City mayor. The renovation project was spearheaded by a group of Hiroshima college students who spend summer vacations in Joge. They created the station’s new logo, the displays for its souvenir stands, and the layout. Polaroid photos of their smiling faces decorate the station, which they rebranded with great attention and energy!

Youshu cake

Among the most popular souvenirs at the station are Joge’s famous Kunihiro Youshu (Western liquor) Cakes. Dating back to the 1950s, these castella cake slices are dipped in rum and brandy, a modern yet palatable flavor to people living in the Japanese countryside where western style snacks aren’t as common. For half a century, this sweet has been a beloved Joge product.

What’s the Tsuchinoko?

One of my favorite parts about hanging out at the station is picking up bits of Joge history from Taka-chan. During my last visit, he whipped out a book of local history and regaled me with tails of the tsuchinoko, a mysterious (perhaps mythical?) creature said to have been sighted in Joge for the first time in the 1980s. A tsuchinoko is a small, plump, snake-looking creature said to be about the size of a beer can.

The most recent sighting of a tsuchinoko occurred in 1990. According to Taka-chan, the ojiisan who spotted the creature was a stern, serious type who wouldn’t joke about such matters. Buzz surrounding the rare sighting grew, and Joge City held an event offering 3,000,000 yen (the equivalent of about $30,000!) to anyone who could find a tsuchinoko. People flocked to Joge to participate in the hunt. They set traps, ate tsuchinoko sweets (which you can purchase at the station), and had a big party!

There were sadly no tsuchinoko sightings that day. When I questioned Taka-chan as to whether he truly believed in the creature’s existence he replied, “OF COURSE I believe!” In this picture, he is posing with an unusually bright-colored, mask-clad tsuchinoko, and with the tsuchinoko sweets for sale at the station.

Taka-chan and the whole gang at Manmaru-ya are waiting to greet you in Joge! We look forward to welcoming you.

By Mary Popeo

Mary Popeo has lived in Hiroshima Prefecture for four years, three of which she spent in Joge. She is passionate about sharing the magic of the Japanese countryside with people from around the world. Mary currently works at a peace education nonprofit in Hiroshima City, and collaborates with Fuchu City and the Joge Town to plan programs for inbound English-speaking tourists.















– Translation by Chizuko Inagaki –

2020.9.25 / Joge Guides